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Bloody Toes, Blisters, and Bruises, Oh My!

Okay, so it doesn't exactly conjure images of Dorothy prancing along the yellow-brick road in her pristine ruby slippers, but these are the true signs that I am back in training. In a way, I feel like I never came out of training in the first place. Not since September of last year. But what made it real to me was the blood spot on my sock from one foot and the blister on the fourth toe pad of my other foot after a week of higher-than-usual mileage. Ah, the joys of running. I had forgotten how the feet get battered from the constant pressure and pounding of long runs. Granted, the bloody toe was more a product of my over-grooming habits (i.e., I am a compulsive nail clipper), but there was something almost delightful about the sight of bright red blood on my white sock after I pulled off my running shoe. These are my battle wounds. I've earned them. And while they're uncomfortable, I can handle them.

In fact, I have a bit of a fascination with blisters. I know the common wisdom is to leave them alone, but this sucker was big, and it was on the bottom of my toe, so I couldn't help but aggravate it with every step I took. So at first, I just drained it. Poked a little hole and let the liquid run out. [Delayed disclaimer: this may not be for the faint of heart.] That relieved the pressure. But then there was the matter of this extra skin that was no longer connected to the flesh. It was so tempting for me to cut it off with nail clippers. But what lay underneath was still red and raw, new skin just beginning to grow back. That would not be fun to run on. So I waited a full day until I could no longer ignore the temptation, and I clipped off the blistered skin. There was enough of a new surface that it did not burn when exposed to air, but in hindsight (always in hindsight), I should have left it alone.

As for the bruises, well, those are self-induced. But not because I like to hurt myself; on the contrary, I like to "fix" myself, and I feel I am helping my body by massaging achy muscles and tendons and rolling out tight IT bands. Perhaps too aggressively, though. At a recent runner's gathering, a massage therapist friend looked at my leg and asked what I'd done. When I told her, somewhat proudly, that it was self-massage, she told me very plainly, "You're damaging the tissue." She further explained that the blood in my leg was having to circulate more to that damaged area to help it recover rather than to the initial site of inflammation and pain. So I apparently was not helping myself at all. Lesson learned. Maybe.

My bloody toe is no longer bloody, my blistered toe is close to healed, and my previously bruised shin now resembles the rest of my leg. For the time being, my battle wounds are gone. But I welcome the next ones, as long as they are the result of solid, hard work, and not of injury.

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